Minnesotans love to spend time outdoors, as evidenced by the local, county, state and even a national park found in the state.
But those woods are hiding more than squirrels and rotten logs. The woods are also a keeper of a very "Minnesota" past time: foraging.
I connected with three local experts through the Foraging Minnesota Facebook group: Ariel Bonkoski, TJ McMullen and Tim Clemens.
Ariel lives in Duluth, and moderates several Facebook groups related to nature in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including Foraging Minnesota.
TJ has been foraging for decades, and is working to grow the Foraging Minnesota website.
Tim is the President of the Minnesota Mycological Society, a Minnesota Master Naturalist, and the owner of Ironwood Foraging.
All three talked about experiences with mushrooms that got them interested in hunting for plants and fungi in the woods.
But they all pointed out, as well, that if you're curious about foraging it's just as easy to start with a local park, or even a look around your neighborhood. Raspberries, day lilies and more are growing in the city if you know to look for them.
If you're planning to head further afield, want to try out foraging or "go on a foray," our experts offered this advice:
Bring some books! A title that came up as a reliable resource again and again was Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest. Since mushrooms are being studied and reclassified every year, make sure you have the latest edition.
Ask an expert. There are numerous groups online, both on Facebook and other sites, where you can upload an image of your foray and ask for identification help. There are also professional foragers like Tim who will take groups into the woods to help them find and identify plants.
If there's any doubt, don't eat it! Some plants and many mushrooms have toxic look-alikes that can fool even an experienced forager.
The public lands in Minnesota are available for forage, within certain guidelines.
All three experts agreed that the important part of foraging isn't always finding a rare plant or mushroom. Spending time in nature and making connections and memories outside connects us to our world, and makes us more aware of everything happening around us.
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